Story at a glance
- The Indianapolis 500 will hold its annual race without fans present.
- Officials said the uptick in new cases across the county and state solidified the decision.
Following other sporting and entertainment events that overlap with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Indianapolis 500, a major race car competition held in Indiana, will be modified to comply with public health mandates that help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Indy 500 will run on its rescheduled date of Aug. 23, but without fans cheering drivers on.
The IndyStar reports that the seats of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) will be empty, for the event often referred to as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
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Initially, IMS officials projected that it would seat 25 percent of stadium capacity for the Aug. 23 race, or more than 87,000 spectators. With the outbreaks of the virus moving into the Midwest, however, Indiana has seen increases in new cases, with 836 positive cases reported on Aug. 4. This amounts to a statewide total of 69,255 coronavirus infections, and an 8.8 percent positivity rate.
Mark Miles, the CEO and president of Penske Entertainment Corp, the management company that oversees the Indy 500, told reporters that prior to restricting attendees, officials had hoped new mask mandates and limits on public events in crowded spaces such as bars and restaurants would drive state COVID-19 data down prior to the race.
By Aug. 4, the average number of daily cases for Marion County, home to the racetrack, had tripled, cementing the decision to bar fans from the event.
Fans will be able to stream practice and the event ahead of the race on NBC Sports Gold.
This move is a departure from other race car events. NASCAR recently held its All-Star Race in Bristol, Tenn., where about 20,000 people were physically in attendance, the largest crowd since March. Tennessee is currently one of the states experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.
Other popular sporting events, like baseball and basketball, have prohibited fans from entering events, even using cardboard cutouts of people to stand in the seats. Professional baseball teams have recently canceled some games due to coronavirus outbreaks among players and staff. On the collegiate level, the University of Connecticut has become the first school to cancel its upcoming 2020 football season out of caution.
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